Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease (CAD) or atherosclerosis is a serious condition that can lead to heart attacks and heart failure. Plaque can begin to build up in the arteries and can eventually harden and narrow the artery and the flow of blood. In its early stages, there are often no symptoms, but as the disease progresses some people may develop chest pain or pressure. Most people have experienced chest pain at a certain point in time, whether a sharp pain, pressure like or burning pain. It can be associated with food, activity, or exercise. For most people, this pain will be due to causes other than heart disease. What chest pain should I pay close attention to? Recognizing angina, or pain due to coronary artery disease, may be difficult but the following symptoms make this condition more likely: 1. Chest pain that is brought on by exertion 2. Associated shortness of breath 3. Dizziness or lightheadedness 4. Easily fatigued 5. Relieved by Aspirin and/or resting
It is important to recognize that many people with chest pain due to coronary artery disease may not have the above symptoms; in fact many people will have no symptoms at all. It is important to seek medical attention if you have any of the above symptoms. If you do not have any chest pain, you should not dismiss the possibility of underlying heart disease and should perform a self-risk assessment with the help of your physician. How is CAD diagnosed? There are several tools available at this time to screen for Atherosclerosis, or Coronary Artery Disease. The most common are EKG and Stress Testing which can be performed in an outpatient setting. These tests can detect blockages in your heart before they cause a heart attack. Very importantly, a visit to your physician should include a check of your blood pressure and cholesterol. Exercising, eating healthy and achieving optimal levels of both cholesterol and blood pressure will greatly reduce your risk of CAD.
What factors increase my chance of CAD?
• Elevated cholesterol
• High blood pressure
• Family History of Heart Disease (First Degree Relative)